What Should You Do If You Are In A Car Accident?
Here's What You Need to Keep in Mind After a Car Accident
At Halvorsen Klote, we routinely handle cases for clients who have suffered personal injuries as a result of a car accident. When car accidents occur, injuries may be severe and emotions high. However, there are important things to do at the scene of the accident and soon afterward. Below is a list of things to do after an accident, if possible:
- Stay at the Scene: Never leave the accident scene until it’s appropriate to do so. If you leave, particularly where someone has sustained injuries or was killed, you can face serious criminal penalties for being a hit-and-run driver.
- Check on All Drivers and Passengers: Before assessing property damage, make sure everyone involved in the accident is okay. Get medical attention for anyone who needs it. If a person is unconscious or has neck or back pain, don’t move them until qualified medical help arrives, unless a hazard requires moving the person.
- Call the Police: If there’s significant property damage, physical injury, or death, you need to call the police. Ask that a police report is filed in situations where cops do arrive at the scene and obtain the name and badge numbers of the responding officers.
- Exchange Information: Get the names, numbers, addresses, drivers’ license numbers, license plate numbers, and basic insurance information from all drivers involved. If there are passengers, also obtain their names, numbers, and addresses. In talking to other drivers, try to be cordial and cooperative. However, you shouldn’t apologize for anything at the scene. For example, if you say, “I’m so sorry I ran that red light! Is everyone okay?” you may be admitting legal liability for what happened. Immediately after an accident, it might not be clear who was at fault or more at fault. Try not to admit guilt unintentionally or unnecessarily.
- Talk to Witnesses: Ask every witness what he or she saw. Get their names, numbers, or addresses, if possible.
- Inform Your Insurance Company: Promptly tell your insurance company you’ve been in an accident. Cooperate with them and tell them the truth about what happened and the extent of your injuries. Explain the facts clearly. If the insurance company finds out that you’ve lied to them about anything, you can get into serious trouble, including possible denial of coverage for the accident. Obtain and review any police report filed, so you can point out who broke what traffic laws or who was at fault.
- Keep Track of Your Medical Treatment: Note any doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, or other medical professionals that you receive treatment from, and each medical provider that referred you to other caregivers. Keep a detailed account of the treatments or medications you receive. Also, request copies of all medical reports and bills as these help you prove your medical expenses later. Medical expenses are relatively easy to document, but pain and suffering are trickier to prove. Keep a record of how your injuries have impacted your daily life. Include any missed workdays, list any routine activities you can’t undertake, and describe how the injuries have affected your family life.
- Take Pictures: Take photographs of any damage to your vehicle as soon as possible after the accident. Photos help your insurance adjuster determine how much you should be compensated for the damage to your car and can help in court. Pictures of your car before the accident can offer a great “compare and contrast” to show the true extent of the damage sustained in the accident.
- Use Caution in Discussing the Incident: Don’t talk to anyone about the accident other than your lawyer, your insurance company, and the police. Don’t talk to a representative of another insurance company, without the knowledge of your attorney or insurer. If called by the other insurance company, be polite, but ask them to call your attorney or insurer to arrange an interview. Also, tell your lawyer or insurer about the call.
- Be Wary of Early Settlement Offers: Be careful if you’re offered a settlement from an insurance company. Confirm all your physical injuries have been treated. Some injuries don’t show up or reach their greatest level of discomfort until many days, weeks, or months later. Don’t settle a claim until you know you’ll be compensated for all your injuries, and consult an attorney before signing any settlement documents.
- Consider Hiring an Attorney: If anyone was injured in the accident, it’s best to consult an experienced attorney. An attorney can help you maximize your recovery if you’re injured or better defend yourself if you’re at fault. Many accident attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. That means that your lawyer only receives a fee if you’re awarded damages or receive a settlement.
If you or someone you know has been involved in a car accident, contact the experienced attorneys at Halvorsen Klote now for a FREE CONSULTATION and case review.